Pleasanton church among East Bay storm damage as tree removal, repair work gets underway

ByAmanda del Castillo and Anser Hassan KGO logo
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Video shows tree crashing into side of church in Pleasanton
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It just took seconds and the side of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Pleasanton was crushed by a falling tree.

PLEASANTON, Calif. (KGO) -- In the East Bay, crews are out and busy attempting to restore areas damaged in Tuesday's powerful storm.

It just took seconds and the side of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Pleasanton was crushed by a falling tree.

"The building (shook) a little, the other secretary was in there with me, and I says, 'What's going on? We have got to get out of here!" explains Carol Bryson, who works at the church.

She was upstairs, next to the part of the church that collapsed.

When they came out to see the damage, her reaction: "Wow! When you look at it - just wow!"

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Brianna Armario shot the video of the tree falling. She says she just went out to capture video of the strong winds, not expecting the tree fall.

"After I took that video, I realized that I needed to go, run over across the street and make sure that everyone was ok, especially my neighbors there," says Armario.

That neighbor was Jeff Meier. Part of the tree fell on his house, damaging some of the roof. He says he is thankful no was home and that no one was hurt.

"I think the real warning for everybody is just, big trees are beautiful, you just have to be careful. You have to maintain them well," says Meier.

The force of the wind was unlike anything many longtime residents and first responders have ever experienced.

I've never heard the wind like that," longtime resident Herb Ritter said. "Some of the neighbors were filming trees and actually got some trees falling on film."

Ritter, a former member of the city's planning and parks commissions, has deep roots in Pleasanton.

He stopped to view the aftermath of a the tree that crashed into the Lighthouse Baptist Church.

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He said the lesson learned is to look up, especially as large trees continue to line many of the streets in Pleasanton.

"I look up and look at all the branches and think, we need to do a better job of just tree trimming. Tree trimmers say it takes the sail out of the tree and that's a way to prevent them from blowing over with them having so many leaves and the weight in them. But, it's an expensive task."

Livermore-Pleasanton Fire was swamped with the sheer amount of calls coming in during the storm. In one three hour window, Battalion Chief Craig Berchtold estimates the department had 100 calls, with chiefs eventually monitoring lines.

"We just had call after call, after call, after call. We had pending calls that we couldn't get to," Berchtold described. "Just wires down, trees down, flooding, power outages. So just a multitude of calls all day to one point where our chiefs just took over and basically triaged the calls for us, because we couldn't handle all the calls."

The department itself was impacted in the storm with three of its station's running on generators into the morning. Still, their response doesn't stop, even in the storm's aftermath- with hundreds of trees estimated to have fallen between the two cities.

"We basically gave all our engine companies more chains for the saws, more fuel, more oil," Berchtold said. "So we could respond to any response we need with the city of Pleasanton or Livermore for trees down."

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